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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver,  B.C.

Diocese of New Westminster

Anglican Church of Canada

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Worship Times

 

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am

 

Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm

 

Sermon

Christmas Eve/Day 2018                                                               John Marsh

 

Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 1:1-20

 

 

 

 

While it is always appropriate to mark and celebrate birth, the point of birth is the life thereafter lived…

 

And so, after his birth, what did Jesus say and do in later life…

 

Perhaps we ‘would do well to remember the things he later said’

 

Jesus grew up in a no-account town of Nazareth in Galilee the son of impoverished parents who eked out a day to day existence – his father worked as a carpenter, carpentry not being the well paid trade it is today…

 

He was raised knowing of the day to day burdens of empire imposed by increasing taxation and the inexorable erosion of identity brought about by foreign domination and occupation…

 

Early in his life, aside from the realities of occupation, Jesus’ identity was shaped by experiences of the god of his forebears; he was attentive to what was stirring within the name of god, to traces of divinity within the world…

 

He was, in many ways, a ‘mystic’ whose awareness of the holy led him to briefly follow John the Baptist…

 

Ultimately his awareness of god led him into the wilderness from which he emerged with a renewed sense of self and mission…

 

Jesus understood himself very much in line with the prophets called and empowered ‘to do justice, and to love compassion and to walk humbly with…god’ (see Micah 6:8)

 

He travelled through Galilee much like an itinerant rabbi; he taught of the in-breaking of god’s reign which reversed usual expectations and stood in stark contrast to Caesar’s reign of domination and violence…

 

He spoke to the ‘great unwashed’ and taught them that they mattered, that they were involved with god’s desires and that it was to them that the reign of god comes…

 

He spoke of justice and practiced an inclusive meal fellowship in which all who wished to eat - ate…

 

He forgave and taught others to forgive debts and practice reconciliation…

 

He embodied and taught radical hospitality…

 

He healed the sick, restored lives to fullness…

 

He spoke of and practiced a vision of non-violence as expressive of the holy one…

 

Consequently, he challenged the accepted culture of violence in which the powerful ‘lorded’ over everyone else…

 

He taught that love of god and love neighbour were one, so much so that it extended even to the love of enemies…

 

He opened possibilities for people in their living, teaching that no social status, no economic reality, no political force or religious definition ultimately defined who they were; he proclaimed that the commonwealth of god sought them, included them and named them…

 

Consequently, they were empowered to live differently…

 

As was later said of his birth, “nothing will be impossible with God” (see Luke 1:37)

 

With nothing impossible for god, endless possibilities open for all of creation, for each and all of us…

 

And for this, for the disturbing presence of hope and the destabilizing effects of impossible possibility, he was arrested…

 

And for this, for the challenge to imperial order and religiosity, he was executed…

 

But as a much later prayer would say, ‘love cannot be stopped by death’¹

 

And his love, his compassion touched something deep inside those who knew him as well as those who knew of him by the witness and character of storytellers of the way…

 

And so, in his story told and retold, the god of our forebear’s acts, inspiring our hearts and mind…

 

In his story told and retold, spirit stirs, calling us into actualizing dreams of a new heaven and a new earth…

 

In his story, and in the lives of those moved by his story, Jesus lives and the old is made new…

 

In his story, we are made new in an ever renewing and involving call of the spirit, the same spirit which called Jesus and now calls us:

 

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (See Luke 4:18-19; see also Isaiah 61:1-2a)

 

And so tonight, the story is told again, told from the beginning; a story of a vulnerable birth revealed to the most vulnerable; a story of a child born in insignificance and carrying divinity’s hope; a story of a child born to grow and stand tall over and against Caesar’s call and dominations’ drive…

 

And as for Luke’s telling of the story, as the storyteller says,

 

“I don’t know whether it happened that way or not, but I do know that it is true.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

¹ From a Eucharistic Prayer written by Paul Fromberg, Rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church San Francisco.